As reality looms, students want to work in finance instead of tech

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One of the bigger trends surrounding university campuses since the financial crisis has been the dramatic shift in student interest from careers in banking to careers in technology – even among graduates who didn’t earn an engineering or computer science degree. Yet new research suggests that, after a decade of mistrust, big banks are once again starting to win over U.S. students – at least those who are older and preparing to join the workforce.

Among U.S. business students, Google remains the most attractive employer for 2019; Amazon and Apple join J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs in the top five, according to new survey data from Universum. But the older the students, the more likely they were to favor working for banks and the less inclined they were to vote for companies like Google and Amazon.

“The more students learn about what they can do with their educational background and about the actual job, the more likely they are to vote for the banks,” says Jonna Sjovall, managing director for Universum Americas. It appears it was doe-eyed first and second-year business students who allowed big tech companies to hover atop the 2019 rankings. If the trend continues, they too may favor a career in banking in a few years.

But why the change? Universum acknowledges that business students are regaining trust in the banking industry – a feeling that started showing up in the 2018 numbers. The other big factor is recruiting: investment banks are doing a better job getting their message across – and not by accident. Their hand was forced as tech giants and consulting firms started beating them out in the war over talent. Banks’ new model of widening the net through technology and softening their image a bit seems to finally be paying off. But unlike pre-2008, it just takes them a little while longer to win people over.

“The big graduate recruiters need more time to build on-campus relationships and connect digitally with the students,” Sjovall said. “When students are choosing their first employer post-graduation, they have a clearer understanding of what roles within banks and professional services will entail, and what their professional development will look like.”

J.P. Morgan has been most successful in improving its image, at least according to Universum. The bank jumped to second in the business rankings among U.S. students. Google finished first yet again but lost two full percentage points in popularity. Nearly every global bank improved their ranking in the business category, including Goldman Sachs, which moved from ninth to fifth. J.P. Morgan was also the top-ranked answer when U.S. business students were asked how likely they were to apply for a job after graduation.

Of course, not everything is coming up roses for investment banks. Even though HR departments are prioritizing technology recruitment, no bank featured in the top 10 among computer science or engineering majors. Goldman finished 30th and 44th, respectively. The firm was up a few spots from last year but still very far from being in the aspirational hot spot.

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